The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kambwamba and Bryan Mealer
Age Group: 9th grade – adult
After three weeks of reading about monsters, zombies and the supernatural, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind was a welcome change of pace to my reading repertoire.
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind is an autobiographical account of William Kamkwamba’s life in Malawi. Although it was pitched to me as a book about a boy who built a windmill, the actual content was so much more inspirational and memorable. William takes us through the entire course of his life, from early childhood to his late teens when he did build a windmill. Growing up, William was always caught between past traditions and beliefs of magic and wizards, and western mentality that his father believed. William was always a curious and thoughtful boy, he and his friends would take apart radios and try to figure out how they worked and how to fix them.
This urge for knowledge was stunted by the many obstacles in his life. Having suffered through the tragic famine that struck Africa in 2002, William’s parents became desolate and unable to pay for William’s secondary school tuition fees. Although a dropout, William was determined to continue with this education by frequenting a small library near the school. There, in the small room where three shelves filled with books in no logical order, not by subject, author or genre. While digging through these books, William managed to pull out the books about science and soon began his studies for the biggest project of his young life.
This book is inspirational for a number of reasons: William’s family surviving the deadly famine and government corruption throughout Africa, his ability to overcome a lack of formal education by supplementing his knowledge with library books and a dictionary. His natural curiosity as well as his parent’s encouragement did much to drive William’s success. There are many heartbreaking scenes, particularly during the famine where everyone suffered and William was forced to make some serious decisions. William’s friendships are also a major aspect of the book. Without the help of his friends Gilbert and Geoffrey it would have been very difficult for William to fully bring his windmill to life.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for an inspirational story, to high school boys in particular feeling unaccomplished and unmotivated because of a lack of resources at home. William was able to create so much with so little, all it took was a little imagine, experimentation and creativity.